(NaturalHealth365) Artichokes can be an intimidating vegetable with its thorny exterior and especially if you have never tried cooking it. But, they are packed with antioxidant nutrients like rutin, gallic acid, cynarin and quercetin – which protect the heart and reduce the risk of liver disease and diabetes.
For those that are accustomed to eating this vegetable, artichoke hearts are probably your favorite; however research shows that the leaves carry the most health benefits than any other part. In a 2004 study, artichokes ranked among the top antioxidant-rich vegetables and surprisingly high levels of disease-fighting compounds called phytonutrients.
How to lower excess cholesterol naturally
In the late 1970’s, researchers started looking at certain plant compounds as an alternative to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs – which is when they discovered compounds in artichokes having a cholesterol-lowering effect. Since then, artichokes have been very popular among scientists.
A 2008 study, among 75 patients, showed that the consumption of 1,280 mg of standardized artichoke leaf extract – for a period of 12 weeks – showed a modest decrease in total cholesterol levels. Researchers of this 12-week, double-blind study, concluded that artichoke extracts showed statistically significant but a modest decrease in total cholesterol levels of 4.2%.
In 2013, a randomized, placebo-controlled study, investigated the effect of artichoke extracts in patients with high cholesterol. The study was conducted for a period of 6 weeks which split participants with high blood cholesterol (>280 mg/dl) into two groups. The test group received 1,800 mg of artichoke leaf extract tablets at a dose of 450 mg tablets four times a day and the placebo group received a neutral pill. At the end of the six-week observation period the group that received artichoke showed an 18.5 % reduction in cholesterol level than the other group.
Why do artichokes decrease cholesterol?
Researchers say that artichoke leaves interfere with the cholesterol production in the body. The compound cynarin is identified as the phytonutrient that plays a key role in decreasing cholesterol. According to researchers, besides cynarin, luteolin another phytonutrient may also play a role in reducing cholesterol.
Keep in mind, the artichoke is just one of many natural ways to lower cholesterol.
Artichokes prevent cholesterol buildup via many pathways however two important mechanisms have been clearly identified. One mechanism is by inhibiting the action of enzymes that participate in cholesterol production in the liver. The second pathway is to increase the production of bile which in turn eliminated more cholesterol from the body.
And, finally, another important heart-healthy benefit associated with artichoke leaves is that they play a significant role in preventing the oxidation of cholesterol and lipoproteins – which is crucial in decreasing the risk of heart disease.
What is the best way to prepare artichoke?
Most of you may be familiar with store-bought artichoke dips or jars of marinated hearts, but many have never prepared and cooked artichokes. Cooking artichoke is easier than you can imagine.
To start, cut off the stem and trim off sharp leaf tips, discard thick outer leaves of the artichoke. Slightly open up the second layer of leaves with fingers so that you can lightly steam or boil – effectively.
You can identify if the artichoke is cooked by checking to see if the petal near the center pulls off easily. The soft pulpy portion of the leaf is the edible part of artichoke. You can eat this by pulling the leaves through your teeth to remove its soft portion – the rest of the leaf should be discarded.
According to a 2006 study, the antioxidant content of cooked artichokes is 3.56 mml/100 g serving (3.5 oz). When you take half cup of cooked artichoke it gives you 7 grams of dietary fiber about 29% of the daily value (DV), 6.2 mg of vitamin C 10% of the DV, 74.8 mcg of folate about 19% of the DV, 12.4 mg of vitamin K 16% of DV. It is also a good source of niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and copper.
Artichokes are available all year round, with the peak months being March, April, and May. So, next time you see an artichoke, don’t be deceived by its appearance – give it a try and enjoy a heart healthy meal.
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1. Halvorsen BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, Bohn SK, Holte K, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. Content of redox-active compounds (ie, antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):95-135. 2006. PMID:16825686.
2. Bundy R., et al. Artichoke leaf extract (Cynara scolymus) reduces plasma cholesterol in otherwise healthy hypercholesterolemic adults: A randomized, double blind placebo controlled trial. Phytomedicine Volume 15, Issue 9 , Pages 668-675, 3 September 2008.
3. Rondanelli M et.al; Beneficial effects of artichoke leaf extract supplementation on increasing HDL-cholesterol in subjects with primary mild hypercholesterolaemia: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Feb;64(1):7-15.
4. Kraft K. Artichoke leaf extract—recent findings reflecting effects on lipid metabolism, liver and gastrointestinal tracts. Phytomedicine. 1997;4:369-378.
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